Social has earned an established place on the marketing table. However, executives often underestimate the broader value of social media to businesses. When organizations seek to rebuild in a post-pandemic world, it is important to harness the growing economic and cultural power of social media.
In our Social Transformation Report, we partnered with Altimeter Group to survey 2,162 marketers and conduct in-depth interviews with leading brands to find out what value companies find when they invest in social networks. We have pinpointed three critical areas that we will share in this post.
Download the full report on social transformation to find out how 2,162 marketers are using social media in their organizations after COVID-19.
3 unique ways social networks create value for organizations
We found that sophisticated organizations use social media to deepen relationships, increase value and efficiency, and become a catalyst for culture change.
1. The ability to build relationships on social media goes beyond customers
In 2020 we saw the importance of brands using social media to protect and strengthen relationships. Social media now plays an important role in developing relationships not only with customers but also with employees, partners and other stakeholders.
Our study shows that “mature organizations” – companies with robust social media strategies according to the Hootsuites Social Maturity Assessment – use social networks to build relationships beyond customers.
While 75% of businesses are focusing on customers as the main social audience, mature businesses have expanded their strategy. It’s almost twice as likely that they’ll connect with communities, employees, and partners as well.
By investing in a more diverse relationship-building model, mature organizations experience a direct impact on sales and employee alignment. Almost 70% see significant overall success when they focus on business relationships.
For leading service operations brands like Sodexo, building relationships inside and outside the company is an integral part of their social media strategy. “We take a 360-degree approach to our communications,” said Kim Beddard-Fontaine, SVP for digital communications and employee communications at Sodexo. “There is no wall between inside and outside.”
Key actions to build relationships:
- Focus on sustainable engagement. Relationships develop with ongoing engagements that result in multi-channel conversations. In our guide for marketers, we discuss key steps you should take to increase engagement and increase your impact.
- Make social listening part of your strategy. Social listening gives you real-time insights into changing trends, consumer sentiment, competitive intelligence and risks to the brand’s reputation. Make sure to monitor all of your core groups (including customers, employees, partners, investors, and the community).
- Integrate cross-channel data. Create profiles or personas for your core groups based on data from various marketing channels. Once you understand how, where, and when to get involved, you can help your audience achieve their goals through strong value propositions and clearly defined actions.
2. The triple threat of social (simple, efficient, effective) affects more than marketing
Social media’s ability to reach large audiences with content in real time – along with the ability to quickly laser target segmented audiences – makes it an incredibly effective media channel.
In our study, 72% of respondents said that the efficiency of social media is so beneficial to their business that it can even improve the efficiency of their other media programs. For example, Mapfre, a global insurance company, uses social analytics to better understand what customers are thinking. In this way, Mapfre can target and personalize its marketing campaigns across all digital channels. In some countries, the only media Mapfre buys is social media because it is so inexpensive for its targeting capabilities.
While the role of social media in customer loyalty is more established, mature companies are now also leveraging social media for broad cross-organizational benefits. Programs like employee advocacy create greater brand health value and internal engagement and efficiency in areas that range from strategy to sales.
The benefits of employee programs have become even more apparent with COVID-19. Ochsner Health System’s advocacy program, which involves 300 ambassadors, became an integral part of their communication strategy at the start of the pandemic. They recently promoted a series of COVID Hero Diaries along with a video of the CEO announcing free childcare for healthcare providers. “They are proud of these stories,” says Alexandra Gaudin, Senior Specialist for Digital Content at Ochsner Health. “The stories resonate with our brand ambassadors, who are proud to work for a company that takes this initiative.”
Key steps to increasing operational efficiency and value:
- Integrate your efforts into other channels. An integrated customer loyalty approach between social media and other digital channels leads to a higher level of trust in the social ROI. Work with established teams like paid media, email marketing, and website optimization to develop more sophisticated digital programs.
- Measure success in context. Social measurement cannot take place in a silo. Assigning sales results requires sophisticated tracking techniques and an understanding of where social media provides the most value in the sales funnel. It’s important to work together across departments to understand the far-reaching impact social media has on customers’ purchasing decisions.
- Plan for the unknowns to mitigate disruptions. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for many organizations, especially those that are less invested in social media practices and are more mature. To reduce the risk, develop a disruption plan that includes responding to social media as part of your broader business continuity planning.
3. Social changes in culture and culture change business
Demanding companies know that social media can help create the cultural foundation required for digital transformation within the company.
Not surprisingly, organizations with well-developed social programs are more likely to have broad social acceptance across the organization.
The wide acceptance of social media prepares companies for the multifaceted approach required for digital transformation. Companies should use existing steering committees, working groups and employee loyalty programs to better support internal changes within the organization. Around 66% of respondents agree that their social programs have helped transform the business.
To really see change, companies at all levels of the company have to invest in broad social acceptance – and let executives buy them in. Executive support can have a huge impact on a company’s ability to integrate social networks across the organization.
Several respondents said that executives saw the power of social media when they participated in it. For example, the Georgia State University social team got an early buy-in from the president and deans by setting them up with social accounts and showing them how to increase peer engagement. Once the director level staff understood the importance of social impact, they began to involve the social team in more strategic meetings. Terry Coniglio, director of strategy at Georgia State University, recalled, “The intangible that cannot be measured is the trust that has been built with our department.”
Key actions to change digital culture:
- Work from the inside out. Effective employee representation programs help employees feel more connected to their company’s mission. Training is key to building trust and supporting employees when their engagement and advocacy efforts are mature.
- Make it socially accessible. The scaling of the digital transformation requires broad acceptance. So when you make social media accessible to everyone from salespeople to executives, you increase their participation and lead to an internal culture shift. It’s important to find a social management platform that is easy to use for any level of employee.
- Invest in social professionals. Social media teams that have successfully launched social media programs understand the skills required to train employees. By investing in resources that in-house experts can use to empower your social networking business, you will get a faster return on your social investments. Use educational resources to keep training regularly.
Read the full report and learn how Hootsuite can become your trusted partner in digital transformation.